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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

MS                               THE GAY GENIUS

In another poem, addressed to Kung Wenchung, he revealed his
inner contempt for the pomp of office.

"By nature I am like a forest deer.
With hardly the temper of the harnessed breed.
Look at these gilded accoutrements,
The jadeite buckles and the silken reins!
Compelling admiration from onlookers.
But meriting well my inner contempt. . . .
Every man has his goal and aim in life,
And I have always held to my belief.
Others will laugh at what I am saying,
But I expect the highest of you and me."

And so along with his songs oŁ laughter we hear a voice of outcry an^f
a sigh. We hear beyond the boom of the bittern the moaning of those
in jail, and beyond the gurgle of water on the water-wheel the sad
plaint of an old farmer's wife. Mixed with the noise of celebrations
overlooking the lake, we hear a resigned voice complaining of his thin
and greying hair.

Su Tungpo was unpredictable. He had the habit of beginning his
poems in the most natural, simple and effortless manner, he would put
in an allusion or two recalling ancient history, and from then on no-
body knew what was going to happen, least of all the poet himself.
Sometimes he gives us an amazing piece of contented inconsequentiali-
ties, a song without purpose, recording the curious impression oP*#
moment, and then he may burst into bitterness, satire, or profound
irony. There is no question that he was a master of both prose and
poetry, written in the style of "sailing clouds and winding waters, going
whither it wants to go and stopping whenever it is right to stop". It
also may be said to be the style of an author who cannot help himself.
At a time when free criticism was most resented at the court, it was a
style definitely calculated to land the poet in trouble.

But Su Tungpo did not know what lines he was going to write next,
and he did not care. With the prodigality of his genius, he would often,
write three or four or five poems in succession on the same theme ancL
using the same rhyme words. There was a poem which started tjfl
describing the atmosphere of a day when it felt as if it were going to
snow. And so he began:

"It is going to snow,
Clouds cover the loch,
Towers and hiH$*seem to be there, and seem not."